• Article

The potential role for smartphones among older adults with chronic noncancer pain A qualitative study

OBJECTIVE : To determine the role that smartphones may play in supporting older adults with chronic noncancer pain (CNCP) in order to improve pain management in this expanding population.

DESIGN:  Qualitative study.

SETTING:  One academically affiliated primary care practice serving older adults with CNCP in New York City. SUBJECTS : Thirteen older adults (age 65-85 years) with CNCP on chronic opioid therapy, that is, continuous use of opioids for at least six months. METHODS : One researcher conducted one-on-one telephone interviews with participants, and two researchers analyzed the transcribed data using descriptive analysis. A nurse and a physician researcher iteratively critiqued and approved the results. RESULTS : Participants provided opinions as to the effects that smartphones may have on medication management and communications with their providers. Smartphones can benefit older adults by supporting interactions with the health care system such as more effective scheduling and coordinating prescribing practices with local pharmacies. Participants expressed difficulties with isolation due to CNCP and posited that smartphones could provide a means for social support. Specifically, smartphones should support older adult needs to effectively communicate pain experiences with personal contacts and caregivers, as well as health care providers. Based on these results, we provide suggestions that can inform future smartphone interventions for older adults with CNCP.

CONCLUSION:  Smartphones that focus on supporting medication management, enhancing communication with providers, and facilitating connectedness within social networks to reduce feelings of isolation may help to improve CNCP outcomes in older adults.


Richardson, J. E., Lee, J. I., Nirenberg, A., & Reid, M. C. (2017). The potential role for smartphones among older adults with chronic noncancer pain: A qualitative study. Pain Medicine, [pnw284]. https://doi.org/10.1093/pm/pnw284

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